In my daily practice, I spend a fair amount of time helping clients in their understanding of mediation outcome documents. Statements of Outcome, Memorandums of Understanding, Open Financial Statements… Just what are these documents and why are they important for clients – particularly if they are not yet legally binding?
As a Family Mediation Council Accredited mediator (FMCA) we are big believers in the importance of these documents and their value to clients far beyond anything to do with court orders and later compliance issues.
The ultimate goal for any family who engage in mediation is to achieve a fair and workable financial settlement that can be made into a legally binding order, as well as to develop a plan for ensuring their children continue to benefit from the ongoing love and care of both parents. That is completely reasonable, and an outcome we at New Landscape Mediation provide for our clients on a regular basis.
When a solicitor applies to the court on behalf of a client for a consent order (to make their agreement legally binding), the document that is submitted to the court has only the bare bones of their financial settlement. In no way is there an explanation of how a couple have arrived at a particular settlement plan. There is no record of why certain decisions were made, or any important side factor that might be critical to a family’s thinking about the motivations for their plans.
Because of this lack of personal detail in the final consent order, unless couples have a record of their thinking at the time they developed their settlement, there is a significant danger that at some point in the future one or other party will forget some very important factor as to why the settlement ended up the way it did. When this happens, conflict almost always follows.
By way of example, if a couple decide to step away from a straight forward 50/50 split of their assets because one party recognises that some of the overall asset pot pre-existed the marriage, and they wish to take this into account. If, a few years after divorce that individual finds themselves strapped financially, it is not unusual for them to suddenly feel hard done by in terms of the deal they struck with their ex. Having this explanation in the Memorandum of Understanding is crucial as a way of reminding them as to the whys and wherefores of the deal.
If you would like more information about outcomes in mediation, call New Landscape Mediation on 01279 211 657 for a free, no obligation discussion of your needs.